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Four years ago today, I wrote this. My life changed forever that day.
I still have a Janet-shaped hole in my heart. I always will. I still notice her absence with every day that passes.
The worst time remains at night. I always went to bed earlier than her. For 40 years, I would wake up in the middle of the night and roll over, and she would be there. No matter how bad the day had been, I knew I could wake her and talk about it. Most nights, no matter how bad the day had been, I would roll over and go back to sleep because I knew she was there, and I could talk to her about it.
Now? I wake up. I roll over. She is not there. Sometimes after bad days, I can get back to sleep. Most times? Not really. Often if I cannot get back to sleep, I will get up and spend time writing. I spent a lot of nights writing in 2018 and 2019. Still do today, although not as many as before.
This is not to say the past four years have been bad ones. Rather the contrary. I have paid off all my debts. I have been successful professionally as a technical writer and most recently as an engineer. (I am back working at JSC, and except for the COVID nonsense that seems to accompany a position working for the federal government, it has been fun.) I am making money faster than I can spend it, and by my standards, I consider myself a wealthy man. I could quit working tomorrow and never notice a financial hit.
Even there, I wonder how much of that good fortune is due to Jan’s absence. There were jobs I could not take while she was alive, because I had to be at home, with her. (Ironically, before remote work became de rigueur for the laptop class.) Her care was a money sink. A lot of my remaining financial burden eased once I hit 65 and no longer had to pay health insurance as a self-employed individual. Since she was four years younger than me, I would still have to keep health insurance for both of us (since she was covered as a spouse), which would cost in excess of $20,000 annually. Plus, the past two years, with COVID, would have been a nightmare had she been alive as a cancer survivor.
Despite that, I would trade all my financial fortune since her death for her presence. Kipling may be right. “He travels the fastest who travels alone.” I’d still rather wait for the laggard behind. Because ultimately it is who you travel with, not how fast you get there. Especially when your path changes, and you do not know whether it leads to Gehenna or the throne of God. Either way, company would be appreciated.
Personally, I consider myself blessed. My three sons have developed into successful men. The oldest two are married, and I have had two grandchildren arrive since Janet died, with a third due this month. A nephew seeking a job in Houston moved in with me six months after Janet died, and I have not been living alone since then. His career has taken off, and he plans to get married in September. He will move out before then, but that won’t bother me. It will be like when my sons left, not when my wife left. Everyone is healthy, including me.
I am seeing a woman. She goes to the same church I attend. Her husband died of cancer the year before Janet did. She understands my pain, I understand hers. Neither of us is jealous of the other’s dead spouse. Rather the contrary. But neither is yet willing to commit to the other. It is a lot easier to pledge to share each other’s lives and fortunes when you are starting out in life with a lot of life ahead and you have so little fortune that it does not matter. Age makes one cautious.
As does the knowledge of loss. Could either of us go through the second loss of a spouse? I could not imagine losing a spouse through death when Janet and I married. We were going to live forever. Now? I not only know of the certainty that one spouse will die before the other, I know what it means. Could I go through that again? Could I put someone else through that? I honestly don’t know. Maybe I will feel differently in a few more years.
I will close repeating what I said four years ago. If you are married, do me a favor. Today, give your spouse a hug and a kiss, and tell them you love them. For no particular reason — just because. You will never regret having done that. After you no longer can, you will regret every opportunity you passed up doing so. That hour might arrive sooner than you think.Published in